When you get deep into the season and there’s little daylight separating squads fighting for European qualification, there are no unimportant matches, and today’s match against Venezia is no exception. With a win, the Giallorossi keep the pressure for league qualification to the Europa League on their city rivals Lazio; L’Aquile face Juventus on Monday in a match that will be pressure-filled in any situation, but you have to imagine being level with Roma might put the fear of Totti into a couple Laziale. A loss would force Roma to put all of their eggs in the Europa League Conference basket, and while I do believe Roma will win in Albania, I’m far more comfortable having two paths to Europa League qualification.
Meanwhile, while Venezia’s beautiful kits couldn’t save them from relegation this season, you just know that after winning the first match against the Giallorossi this season, I Lagunari will be hoping to go two for two against Roma before heading back down to Serie B. If I was a betting man, I’d say this game is going to be a hard-fought one, with Roma’s hopes for the future clashing with Venezia’s last gasps of top-flight football until 2024 at the earliest.
November 7, 2021: Venezia 3, Roma 2
Watching this one in real time took a couple years off my life. It was the first time I had successfully convinced my mom to watch a Roma match, so naturally the Giallorossi provided her with a patented Roma happened to celebrate the occasion. Although Venezia drew first blood off of a Mattia Caldara goal, goals towards the end of the first half from Eldor Shomurodov (remember him?) and Tammy Abraham had Roma looking like they would at least split the points at the end of the full ninety. That wasn’t to be, though, as a controversial penalty for Mattia Aramu opened the door for David Okereke to give Venezia the home win.
Here’s what we had to say in the aftermath:
We have been able to glean some positives away from Roma’s recent performances—the plucky scoreless draw against Napoli and the second half come back against Cagliari come to mind—but with the club in an apparent free fall (only one win in their past seven matches in all competitions), we can safely say that José Mourinho’s honeymoon period is over. What started off brilliantly with six consecutive victories and plenty of eye-catching football has withered down to our current mess: a team struggling for results and an identity, both of which were on display yesterday in beautiful Venice.
What To Watch For
Can Roma Reward Their Home Crowd?
Romanisti are always a passionate bunch, but something in the air has felt different this season. Even after Roma’s embarrassing 6-1 loss to Bodø/Glimt, the Giallorossi faithful have remained active participants in the club’s fortunes, packing the Stadio Olimpico on a weekly basis while Lazio can’t seem to pay folks to sit in the stadium. With today being Roma’s last home match of the season, you have to hope that the squad is going to give their full energy for the three points not just for the sake of Europa League qualification, but as a thank you to the fans who have stuck with the Giallorossi and turned the Olimpico into a fortress regardless of the opponent.
As for why the Olimpico has become a fortress this season, I honestly couldn’t tell you. Do Romanisti feel more hopeful with The Friedkin Group running the show (maybe, but the ticket prices shrinking probably helps too)? Is Tammy Abraham worth the price of admission alone (for my money, yes)? Has the hiring of a name-brand manager in José Mourinho turned Roma matches into a must-see event (I watched during the pits of the Rudi Garcia years, so I’m obviously not the best judge)? Whatever the reason is, this season has felt special even if Roma aren’t going to qualify for the Champions League just yet. I’m hopeful that energy can drive I Lupi to a win against Venezia today.
Will Mourinho Ever Play Nice With The Refs?
Regular readers of Chiesa di Totti will know I’m not a big fan of Italian referees; I think they’ve made Nicoló Zaniolo’s return from injury ten times harder than it had to be, and you could definitely make a case that refereeing shenanigans are what kept the Giallorossi out of the Champions League places this season. Nevertheless, while I’ve been impressed by the club’s determination to stand up to shoddy refereeing this season, I was a little surprised by José Mourinho’s words on the subject in his pre-match presser:
Against Fiorentina we were a tired side and Fiorentina had a different energy to us; I agree that they were capable of winning the game without the decision that went their way. They really did play very well. But we are nevertheless a bit tired of referees and VAR referees finding themselves in trouble after our games. They have often been suspended for three or four or five games after overseeing a match with us.
Because, for those in power, that is one way of them saying: ‘They made a mistake’. But nevertheless I ask, if they have made a mistake, if they have been punished … where are the points? Where did the points go in the end? That’s the problem. If we arrive at this stage in the season, with everything still to be decided from fifth to eighth position, then I don’t want to be saying the same thing that PSV did after the season finished in the Netherlands.
Criticizing referees post-match is generally accepted, even if it usually results in a fine in many sports leagues. Criticizing them beforehand, though? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, and since I’m a superstitious guy these days, I’ll just say: let’s see if it pays off for them.